AP: Phil Texted Commissioner About… Too Many Cell Phones on the Course

The Associated Press is reporting today that Phil Mickelson sent PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a text during last Thursday’s opening round of the Memorial, complaining about the fans’ unruly use of digital devices. From the AP story:

According to four people with direct knowledge, Mickelson sent a text message to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway at Muirfield Village suggesting that a lack of policing fans with cellphones was getting out of hand.

The story raises a bunch of questions — hey, are golfers going to be like NASCAR drivers, tweeting from the course? — and also (as GigaOM’s Stacey H says) ignores the obvious irony, that Mickelson is using a cell phone to complain about people using cell phones.

We expect to hear more about this bubbling issue at the press conferences for the U.S. Open next week. Should be interesting to see how big tour sponsor AT&T feels about all this, too. But from the last part of Doug Ferguson’s report it may be that only a little bit better policing is how to solve the problem:

Banning the policy isn’t an option. The tour is moving forward in the digital age with programs to enhance the gallery’s experience. Plus, the increase in attendance has been tangible this year. Nowadays, if fans can’t bring their phones, they’re more likely not to come at all.

The solution is to add security or volunteers to the two or three marquee pairings, and to take away phones from fans caught taking pictures (giving them a claim check to retrieve the phone at the end of the day). That’s what happened on Friday, and there were no big incidents the rest of the way.

UPDATE: It appears the commish is saying cell phones will stay, for now. Read this story over at Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which tracked Finchem down at a Pro-Am and asked him about the controversy.

Twitter Shows Boost for @keselowski During Daytona 500 Fire-Tweet

How many Twitter followers did Brad Keselowski, aka @keselowski, gain during his on-track tweeting from the Daytona 500, when the track-drying truck fire caused a two-hour delay? The folks at Twitter put out a handy graphic to show the meteoric rise, when he added more than 100,000 new followers before the checkered flag was waved:

That’s what viral is all about. Anyone else doubting that Twitter spreads like wildfire? Or that it is the way sports personalities will “talk” to their fans going forward?

Daytona 500 History: First In-Race Tweeted Photo!

If you are watching the Daytona 500 live on Fox you may have seen the spectacular crash-and-explosion when Juan Pablo Montoya’s car skidded into a safety vehicle, blowing up a whole bunch of airplane fuel. When something like that happens the race is red-flagged, meaning the drivers stop on the course — and of course since it is 2012 driver Brad Keselowski took out his iPhone, snapped a picture and tweeted it:

Now kids — don’t tweet and drive, especially when you are going 200 mph. But when you’re stopped for a red flag? Go ahead, make social media sports history.

UPDATE: Jalopnik had a great breakdown of the moment in NASCAR and Twitter time.

Daytona 500 Delayed — Could Pressure Next NASCAR Race

Sunday's 200,000 fans not this dry

Sunday’s heavy rains forced a delay for the Daytona 500 race, the first time in the iconic race’s 54-year history that it has been delayed. Track officials waited over four hours before deciding that was not going to be a window of clear weather that was long enough to allow the track to dry off sufficiently to allow for racing.

The race has been tentatively moved to Monday but weather reports are not promising as the forecast currently calls for rain. It is likely that the track will wait much longer since any additional delays will make it difficult to reach Phoenix in a timely manner for next week’s NASCAR race.

For the office bound-look online for info

For racing fans there is still news to be had online. We listed a number of services that are being provided by the Daytona International Speedway last week but there are other online and social media sources for fans that might be trapped in an office during the race.

With the race being broadcast on Fox there is of course http://www.foxnews.com/sports/nascar/index.htmls web site that focuses specifically on NASCAR. With a lot at stake they will very likely have their finger on the pulse to see if the race does start at noon EST, or what time it is likely to start. ESPN of course also has a strong NASCAR presence at can be viewed at its site as well.

If you are looking to have a bit of input and possibly chat with other fans while at work, you can head over to Speedtv.com and join in the Twitter conversations that are ongoing or follow any one of a number of drivers Twitter feeds as they talk about the race and the rain issue.

Dear Cell Companies: Event Upgrades Aren’t News. They Tell Us Your Network Stinks.

Portable cellular tower on light truck -- aka a "COLT." Credit: Verizon Wireless

Are you getting as tired of this as we are? Every time there is a big sporting event now, the major wireless carriers in the U.S. are racing each other to put out press releases saying how the companies are rushing extra gear to the event stadium and surrounding area, all to ensure good performance of their customers’ devices. We hear tales of new antennas, new infrastructure equipment and the now-ubiquitous COWs, aka cell trucks on wheels. Is this news?

No. What it means is that the wireless networks stink, and the companies are trying to make a positive out of what is really years of neglect and shortsightedness in network design and deployment. This week’s offender is Verizon Wireless, which wants you to know that among other things it has “installed powerful base station equipment for both the 4G LTE and 3G networks inside the arena” for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, and “recently completed high-tech in-building systems at various hotels and other facilities in the Orlando area.”

Wow, “high-tech” systems! What will they think of next?

And for the Daytona 500, an event that has roughly been going on since cars were invented, Verizon needs to truck in a couple COWs (“each featuring a 75-foot telescoping antenna and advanced hardware for both 4G LTE and 3G voice and high-speed data channels”) because apparently the existing network in the greater Daytona area will fall to its knees when the hundreds of thousands of “race fans” gather there later this week for the NASCAR season opener.

Leaving aside the offensive tone of the press releases, which assume a level of ignorance on the customer/press part (what exactly is a “high-tech” system, and how does that differ from the old stuff? Was that all coal-fired?), the bottom line is that Verizon and other carriers who put these press releases out are glossing over the fact that their standard cellular system deployment is way behind the times, especially in areas surrounding big sporting arenas. Even though the iPhone revolution has been going on now for almost 5 years, it seems as though carriers are still being caught by surprise by fans showing up at games wanting to use those whizzy phones that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are selling them.

Get over it. Get out there and rebuild those networks, and make the necessary extra improvements around stadiums. You’re certainly charging folks enough to be do so, since your execs are all pulling down Prince Fielder paychecks. So spare us the “news” about having to compensate for bad network design and deployment. And get more of that “high-tech” stuff out there.

Daytona 500 features Huge Mobile and Social Media Push

The Daytona International Speedway (DIS), home of this week’s 54th Daytona 500 has been working to expand the sports appeal to the users of social media and has launched a series of programs that will enable fans both at the track and at home to follow the race.

The effort actual started last Saturday night with the first event of the NASCAR season, the Budweiser Shootout, which kicks off its annual Speedweek push. In case you missed the race it was won in spectacular style by Kyle Busch.

Speedweek has something for just about any racing fan and a quick look at its web site shows a comprehensive wealth of information for the fans including overall schedules, FANZONE schedule, track activity and appearances by drivers to list just a few of the events.

However the outreach to directly interact with fans is on Twitter, where fans can join into conversations with drivers, teams, DIS and the media that track this sport. Look to add these onto your Twitter feed – with @DISupdates, #DAYTONA500, #BudweiserShootout, #GatoradeDuel, @NextEra_Energy Resources 250, #DRIVE4COPD300, #Speedweeks. For fans at the track on race day there is also contact @DIS_help and #DIShelp for customer service questions.

The track has been working to enhance its online and social media presence for some time and this push is a continuation of that effort. NASCAR’s Facebook page has over 2.5 million likes while Daytona’s has over 400,000.

“There’s a reason why Daytona International Speedway boasts the largest social media following of any racetrack in NASCAR,” said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said in a release. “During Speedweeks, we’ll continue our efforts to make it easy and enjoyable for fans to get closer to the sport, while also reaching out to our younger, more technologically savvy race fans.”

DIS said on Monday that they plan to make the 54th Daytona 500 and Speedweeks a memorable event in many ways, starting with the largest and most expansive social media effort in NASCAR to further engage fans at the “World Center of Racing” and at home.

“There’s a reason why Daytona International Speedway boasts the largest social media following of any racetrack in NASCAR,” said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. “During Speedweeks, we’ll continue our efforts to make it easy and enjoyable for fans to get closer to the sport, while also reaching out to our younger, more technologically savvy race fans.”

Join the conversation with DIS, media, teams and drivers on Twitter with @DISupdates, #DAYTONA500, #BudweiserShootout, #GatoradeDuel, @NextEra_Energy Resources 250, #DRIVE4COPD300, #Speedweeks, and contact @DIS_help and #DIShelp for customer service questions on race days. Don’t forget to also follow @NASCAR, and #NASCAR.

There is a free DIS app for both Android and Apple iOS smartphone users that will enable fans at the race as well as the less fortunate than could not make the journey track a wide range of events including receiving new articles.

For fans at the race the app includes a great deal of basic information of the type that can be invaluable including daily schedules, gate policies, directions, and interactive GPS facility and parking maps with search capabilities. There is even a feature called ‘friend finder’ to help locate friends at the various events. There will be QR codes located prominently all around the track that connect to the DIS app.

In addition there will be special QR that fans can use to enter a sweepstakes with NASCAR.COM to win tickets to the 2013 DAYTONA 500. Texting has not been forgotten as well as fans at the race can text DISINFO to 69050 for updates during events as well as information relating to gate opening times, parking and more. For information on specific questions fans can text DISFAN to 69050 and a live attendant will be on hand to respond.

I really like this proactive outreaching to fans by the DIS. For first time fans at the race the mobile app can be a life saver rather her than walking around lost and constantly asking for help. The range of information and content will likely augment fans enjoyment of the race regardless of if they are in attendance or not. I just hope that the tracks network is up to handling the increased traffic this push is likely to generate. I am sure we will hear the complaints if it does not.